A coalition of environment, unions and faith groups protested outside the Labor Party’s national conference in Adelaide on Sunday, calling for the party to stop the expansion of the fossil fuel industry.
On the plus side, EDO NSW has endorsed the party’s commitment to create a national Environment Protection Authority.
Protesters demanded a stop to oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight, preventing Adani and other coal mines in Queensland’s Galilee Basin and an end to fracking and gas exploration, in the Northern Territory, Western Australia’s stunning Kimberley and the Pilliga Forest in NSW.
The Wilderness Society’s South Australia director, Peter Owen, said it was, ‘insane Australia is opening up new oil, gas and coal frontiers when we know we need to stop burning fossil fuels’.
Height of irresponsibility
‘Expanding the fossil fuel industry is the height of irresponsibility and not an option if we are to have any chance of providing our children with a liveable climate
‘It’s also concerning that many of these fossil fuel frontiers are in pristine areas such as the Great Australian Bight, Western Australia’s stunning Kimberley and NSW’s biggest inland forest, the Pilliga. The Great Australian Bight whale nursery is a completely inappropriate place for risky deep-sea oil drilling, especially as we hurtle towards catastrophic climate change.’
‘We now know we must act immediately to avoid locking in catastrophic climate change. Allowing the fossil fuel industry to expand would negate Labor’s good work in promoting renewable energy. It’s time for the Labor Party to show national leadership and commit to stopping the expansion of the fossil fuel industry when it sets its election platform at this national conference.’
Philippa Rowland, president of Multifaith SA, said, ‘people of faith in Australia feel the urgent need for an ethical response to threats posed to vulnerable communities from escalating climate impacts across our region – all climate policies must include a rapid transition away from fossil fuels.’
Youth fired up
Australian Youth Climate Coalition Campaigns director, Kelly Albion, said, ‘young people are fired up like never before about stopping the dangerous Adani mine – we’re literally fighting for our lives’.
‘There are skilled-up activists all across the country who are determined to make Adani an election issue, even when Labor are determined to not talk about it.
‘We’ll be at every Labor event, every doorstop, every press conference asking them which side of history they want to stand on – the side of a safe climate future, or the side of a coal mining billionaire?’
Exporting climate change
The Maritime Union of Australia’s WA Branch assistant secretary, Danny Cain, said it was ‘time for Labor to recognise the need to move away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources and a sustainable energy system. Our members are at the forefront of this change. The employment shift must involve a just transition for workers in fossil fuel industries to real union jobs in new, safe renewable industries.’
Mr Owen said Australia was ‘the worst-performing country in the world on climate action’, according to the recently released UN Sustainable Development Goals Index, which now includes carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel exports.
‘Australia’s annual exported CO₂ emissions are a colossal 44 tonnes per person, outstripping even Saudi Arabia (35.5 tonnes/person) and 60 times those of the US (710kg/person).
‘We are exporting climate change to the world,’ he said.
EDO endorses National EPA
In a win for Labor, however, the Environmental Defender’s Office (EDO) NSW has welcomes the party’s commitment to enact a new National Environment Act and establish a new national Environment Protection Authority if elected in 2019.
EDO said in a statement that the current Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act), written nearly 20 years ago, ‘fails to effectively conserve and manage Australia’s unique and irreplaceable environment’.
‘It also fails to address the biggest environmental challenges we face – climate change, sustainable natural resource management and the extinction crisis.
‘Nor does it effectively address emerging challenges such as marine plastic pollution.
‘This high-level commitment to a new Act and a new institution is a significant step, but the detail of how a new regulatory system would work in practice is crucial.
‘EDO NSW is already working on this detail. And while the commitment does not include a national Environment Commission to set binding national standards to truly protect our natural world, it does provide a strong starting point for a more detailed commitment in coming months,’ the EDO said.